Two days ago, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn into office as President and Vice President of the United States. Until that day, I hadn't felt hope for this nation in a long time. After watching a radical right-wing mob storm the Capitol and threaten the institution of American democracy, I was terrified for the state of our affairs last week. It was a deeply unsettling display of insurrection and domestic terrorism, incited by the (former) Commander-in-Chief himself, Donald Trump. The next day, Congress brought forth Articles of Impeachment for the second time under Trump's administration, an event that has yet to occur in American history.
To put it lightly, I, and millions of Americans, felt despondent. Watching the country tear itself apart from the inside was horrifying, and although Trump only had a few days left in office, my faith in our government wavered once again. Yet, seeing the President and Vice President-elect stand before the Washington Monument to honor the lives lost to COVID-19, I felt some peace settle in. The next morning, I watched in awe as Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff emerged on the Capitol steps. This was the first inauguration I've ever truly cared to watch. It was also the first presidential election I'd ever gotten to vote in, and I couldn't contain my pride. Although I didn't watch much of Trump's inauguration, I still remember the looming sense of sadness I felt from watching parts of it. That air didn't seem so present this year.
With a small but diverse and ecstatic crowd, the Inauguration was breathtaking. Youth Nobel Laureate Amanda Gorman gave an exceptional performance of her poem "The Hill We Climb." If you didn't watch it, you're genuinely missing out; It was one of so many unique and spectacular moments throughout the ceremony: Garth Brooks, a known Republican, singing "Amazing Grace." Lady Gaga fervently singing the National Anthem. Jennifer Lopez singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and reciting lines of the Constitution in Spanish. The monochrome fashion looks from the past and present Presidential families. Even seeing former Vice President Mike Pence attend, humbly honoring the new administration without Donald Trump at his side.
When it was time to swear in Kamala Harris, tears welled in my eyes. The term "Madam Vice President" was no longer a dream, but a long-awaited and joyful reality. Standing on the shoulders of women who fought before her, the sound of Kamala's "So help me God" shattered glass ceilings. The admiration of millions of American women poured out to her, a daughter of immigrants, a woman of color. A first, but not a last. When Joe Biden followed, and his family watched him with such love and respect, I was overwhelmed by the dignity being restored to the White House. At that moment, I couldn't have been more proud to be an American.
I am not foolish enough to believe that one politician or administration can eliminate our problems, nor do I think that a Democrat-controlled Congress will mean sweeping progressive legislation. It will still be a time for organizing and advocacy, but perhaps more importantly, it will be a time for healing. In Biden's inaugural address, he emphasized his commitment to unifying the nation, a message that so many Americans sorely need. With the deep hatred and division that has been sown into the public, there is immense room for change and an even more profound need for it.
Character matters in the Presidency, and I believe that Joe Biden has that. He often speaks of transparency and integrity, something the presidential office has lacked for a while now. Biden has inherited a country in crisis, but he has plans to bring us forward. He signed 17 executive orders on his first day as President, including measures to provide immediate COVID relief, rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, end the Keystone Pipeline construction, strengthen civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ citizens, and restructure the priorities of ICE, to name a few. I hope he carries that spirit with him and remains faithful to his promises in years to come because, as Amanda Gorman said on January 20th, "For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it." So, good luck Joe and Kamala. We're rooting for you.